There is a common misconception in Australian business that flexible working options are only for parents and those not in executive positions.
The men and women on the list come from a range of companies including ANZ, ASX, Ericsson, EY, and Coca Cola Amatil, and while some opt for a flexible working arrangement to raise children, others also do so to cater for family committments, carer responsibilities and to prevent extended travel time to work.
Angela Priestley, editor of Women’s Agenda, said Australia still has a long way to go in terms of flexible working hours. While many corporations offer some sort of program, Priestley says the reality is that not many people choose to take it because there aren’t many in C-level positions taking the lead to show that it can work.
“Flexible work is seen as something that working mother’s do rather than [something] everyone can access,” said Priestly.
“The hours required for a powerful job do not have to be one-size-fits-all. We need flexible work to become the norm rather than the exception for both women AND men – something leaders like those featured in this list are working to pioneer.”
Here are 10 of the most powerful part-time workers in Australia.
Nicolette Rubinsztein, General Manager of Retirement & Advocacy for Commonwealth Bank/Colonial First State
Rubinsztein has worked part-time for over 10 years as a general manager. During that time she has had three children and has subsequently altered her work days to 8am and to 2:30pm to cater for this. As well as her leadership role at the bank, Rubinsztein is on the board of the Association of Super Funds of Australia.
Linden, who manages a team of about 180 people, has flexible working hours, often starting later in the day or finishing early and she has one day a week at home in order to care for her husband who was in a bicycle accident.
I spend lots of time planning what I need and what I can and can’t commit to in order to make this work for everyone. It’s about being upfront and honest – it makes the relationship (with an employer) much better and helps me to plan.
Linden points out that flexibility is not just for people with kids or only women in the workplace, saying it is important to have a job that is interesting and fulfilling.
As CIO of the ASX, Thurman is responsible for providing strategic IT leadership, and oversees the development and delivery of IT services and new technologies. He works from home once a week and maintains flexible hours each day to suit work needs and family life. He also makes use of his commute to and from work, using remote access to check emails and carry out tasks. In order to make his arrangement work, he dials into meetings where practical and does a lot of reading (such as board papers) at home. With more than two decades’ IT leadership experience, Thurman managed to climb the corporate ladder while maintaining a flexible work life.
A lead audit partner at a big four firm working four days a week - three days in the office and one day from home - Gorton has designed her working arrangements around family commitments.
The nature of my role requires long hours at times, but I balance this with shorter hours at other times of the year, to ensure that overall balance is maintained between my personal and work commitments.
Gorton says having strong support at home is key to the success of flexible work.
Jane Eccleston and Kate O'Rourke have been job-sharing since December 2010, one of the many flexible working options available. The pair are jointly responsible for ASIC's work relating to corporations, including mergers & acquisitions, fundraisings, corporate governance and financial reporting.
Eccleston works Monday-Wednesday, and O'Rourke works Wednesday-Friday. Eccleston and O’Rouke hold an extremely senior role with Australia’s securities watch dog, overseeing some of its fundamental regulatory priorities crucial for the smooth running of the economy.
Townsend was promoted from EY director to partner while on maternity leave with her first child in 2008. She now has a flexible working arrangement of three days per week in the office. She took another period of maternity leave to care for her second child in 2012 and continues to work flexibility while progressing her career.
Lisa Tuffs and Sarah Goss, Principal Engagement Manager, Industry & Society at Ericsson Australia & New Zealand
Both Tuffs and Goss job share a role which has aims to identify, qualify and seed new business growth areas for Ericsson. They have to work across multiple stakeholders including external ones such as customers, industry bodies, third party partners and internal ones at a local, regional and global level to secure funding and support. It is a strategic role and requires strong interpersonal skills and the ability to effectively influence. Both women work three days in the office, but also work from home when it is required.
Woodland has been able to grow and develop her career while working part-time and then in flexible arrangements. She returned to work part-time after having children. This evolved to a compressed work-week, where she fits full-time in 4 days.
Working flexibly has been challenging at times, but I've been able to have demanding roles, responsibility, and career growth. I moved to my current role (executive role, leading legal, governance and risk functions) while continuing to work flexibly. I've had great support—and a few role models—and I'm keen to speak out about my experience to showcase what's possible.
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